Treating Dental Phobia

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Since dental phobia has been recognised as a pressing social issue with potentially serious ramifications, standards of good practice and methods of treatment have evolved to accommodate and, where possible, address and treat these fears.

Treatment and prevention

There are two distinct issues that present themselves when considering how best to deal with dental phobia, and these are treatment and prevention. The first revolves around addressing a patient’s existing fears and anxieties to help them overcome, or at the very least cope with, their fears. The second focuses on the root causes of dental phobias in terms of dental practice and how to improve care so that patients don’t develop these fears in the first place. Most healthcare systems operate on the premise that ‘prevention is better than cure’, and dentistry is certainly no exception. By improving elements of dental care that have contributed to the development of phobias, e.g. painful experiences with needles or other procedures, the hope is that in time the number of phobics out there diminishes.

Methods of treatment

There are a number of different methods of approaching and dealing with dental phobias, and these include:

  • Gentle Dentistry – Refers to an increasing trend amongst dentist’s to improve both how they treat and interact with patients. Gentle dentistry aims to provide as comfortable an environment as possible in which a patient can feel safe and calm, while also using the best technologies and methods to make treatments as pain free as possible.
  • New Technologies – New equipments and methods are constantly being developed to improve various aspects of dental care, these can range from improved dental drills that are quieter and hence less distressing and easier to use to better anaesthetics
  • Distraction – For many people being provided with a convenient distraction is enough to make a trip to the dentist more bearable. Many dentists now have MP3 players you can listen to, or even TVs you can watch while the procedure is underway. Taking your mind off what’s going on in your mouth can work wonders as it keeps you from obsessing over your fear.
  • The Wand – Is a tool designed to deliver an anaesthetic at a constant speed. If you have suffered during the application of an anaesthetic in the past, it is likely to be a consequence of your dentist applying the anaesthetic far too quickly. The wand circumvents this, and can provide you with the comforting knowledge that the application of the anaesthetic will not hurt.
  • Hypnotherapy – Hypnosis is widely used by many professionals as a method of treating fears. That being said, there are mixed opinions about the subject amongst the general public as well as the media and scientific community. Despite this the technique is still used quite broadly and is worth considering or at least discussing with your dentist.
  • Sedation Dentistry – Makes use of chemical agents to sedate patients whose anxiety is a cause of their dental phobia. This method is quite straightforward and effective, and will be discussed with you if you need a procedure in the near future and have had a history of nervousness in the dentist’s chair.
  • Counselling – If a patient’s dental phobia stems from underlying anxiety or stress issues, than counselling is often the best course of action. Speaking to a professional who is able to address any underlying psychological issues and help you work on them is, in these instances, a much more effective and long lasting solution.

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Guide to Dental Phobia